Many parents are asking how to strengthen their child’s immune system this fall, to help prevent catching colds and also the flu. The immune system is basically a bunch of different types of cells that together fight bacteria and viruses that cause infection. Many children get sick in the fall as they return to school and daycare where they are exposed to a variety of bugs. Their immune systems are still growing and developing, so they are more likely to get sick than adults. There are several factors that can influence how healthy and robust a child’s immune system is. Follow these steps to boost your child’s immune system and help them stay healthy through this cold and flu season.
- Make sure they get enough sleep. Preschoolers need about 11-13 hours of sleep daily, more is required for younger children. Studies show children who are sleep deprived have more frequent ear infections, allergies and higher frequencies of asthma, not to mention the grumpy mood that results! To improve sleep patterns, stick to a night time routine which includes “quiet time” before bed to help them relax and fall asleep with more ease.
- Provide a nutrient dense diet. Stick to complex carbohydrates, a variety of fruits and vegetables and clean sources of protein including lentils, and organic meat, dairy and eggs. If you suspect your child may have food sensitivities get them tested. Avoiding foods your child is sensitive to can improve the health of the immune system. It can also help resolve chronic ear infections, tummy aches and improve symptoms of allergies and asthma. Often these foods can be re-introduced into their diet at a later date.
- Make sure they are getting enough good fats in their diet. Yes that’s right, cholesterol is the building block of immune system cells. Quality fats are very important and include omega 3 fats from cold water fish, as well as fats from olive oil, coconut oil and nuts and seeds. I also recommend organic eggs and organic butter on a regular basis, as long as there are no food sensitivities to these foods.
- Continue giving your child vitamin d. We know this is important for newborns, but recent studies have proven vitamin d plays an important role in healthy immunity. Since our fall and winter tend to be grey and rainy, you may want to consider giving your child vitamin d drops to keep their immune system healthy.
- Consider a quality probiotic. Healthy bacteria keep us healthy! A large part of our immune system is in the gut known as GALT (gut associated lymphoid tissue). You can get some probiotic from yogurt as well as fermented foods such as unpasteurized sauerkraut. I recommend organic plain yogurt made from real milk as long as there is no milk allergy or sensitivity. There are good quality probiotics that your Naturopathic Physician can recommend which come as a powder, easy for children to take daily in a little water or other liquid.
Dr. Agnieszka Matusik is a Naturopathic Physician practicing family medicine in South Surrey/White Rock. Her practice focuses on women’s health and pediatrics. She has a special interest in pre-conception health, fertility, pregnancy and labour support and children’s health issues. Contact Dr. Matusik at 604-293-2941 or at www.bhihc.com